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28 Jun 2006 : Column 320

Although the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster seems to be smiling at me and nodding in agreement with everything I say, we should perhaps remember that the Conservative party has not been absolutely straight on this issue. It is worth reflecting that, before the last general election, the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron)—now the Conservative party leader—announced on the “Today” programme his plans for a national school leaver programme. The presenter asked him how it would be funded and he replied, on 4 January last year:

He was clearly interested in getting his mitts on lottery money, as confirmed in the Conservative manifesto, which announced that the party’s Club2School sports scheme was to be funded by £750 million of lottery money. The Conservative party has not been quite as clean on this issue as it might have been.

The key issue relates to the Big Lottery Fund, which is a combination of the Community Fund and the New Opportunities Fund. My party was opposed to the establishment of the New Opportunities Fund because it was going to distribute on a basis entirely determined by the Government, thus totally eroding the principle of additionality. As I have said, the New Opportunities Fund is to form part of the Big Lottery Fund and we therefore continue to have concerns about its running. We all know that the Big Lottery Fund has existed for more than a year—indeed, I have a Big Lottery Fund T-shirt and mug—yet we continue to debate the measure that is meant to establish it. However, it already exists and we must accept that.

4 pm

It was crucial to ensure that the Big Lottery Fund is subject to no greater opportunities for Government interference than any other lottery distributors. Under the original Government proposals, that would not have been the case. The Big Lottery Fund would have had to comply with a string of directions from the Secretary of State. Both Opposition parties wanted to ensure that it had to comply only to the same extent as other lottery distributors.

I am therefore delighted that, after pressure in the House and in another place, the Government have acceded to our request. The amendments would ensure that the Secretary of State had the same ability to instruct the Big Lottery Fund and the other lottery distributors. It is therefore right that the wording of the amendments mirrors that of section 26(1) of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993. We are delighted to support the amendments because they would effect what we wanted to achieve from the outset.

Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) was characteristically generous and kind to the Minister. I understand the background. Many colleagues have been involved in long and extensive debates here and in another place, and I am pleased that the Government have made some movement in the amendments in the direction that we wish them to follow. Given the spirit of consensus that appears to pervade parts of the Chamber this afternoon, it would be churlish to deny that. I therefore welcome the fact that some of the
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language of the National Lottery etc, Act 1993, is repeated in the amendment in lieu to take account of some of our worries.

However, not all our worries are tackled. Once again, we are in a position that we occupy all too often with the Government—that of considering sketchy and general measures when the things that matter will emerge in orders and subsequent prescriptions on expenditure, which are not laid before the House or included in the statute. It is therefore a pity that the Minister has not been forthcoming about what the Government have in mind by way of proper guidance to guarantee that any health and education expenditure can be genuinely additional. More importantly, how can it be guaranteed that such spending will not crowd out the other expenditure in the 50 per cent. category that has a proper claim on the lottery as originally defined?

I well remember the debates about the 1993 legislation. The then Government were attentive, as they should have been, to the Opposition’s views. The then Opposition were determined that none of the money should find its way into core elements of public spending, such as health and education, because they believed that that constituted a cop-out by the Government of the day, that the contributions would be small compared with the large sums of money spent through main programmes and that the lottery should be steered away from any such proposal. I am sure that the Opposition welcomed the fact that the Government went along with that—although they were not too generous about the matter—and ensured that the right guarantees were built into lottery legislation so that the lottery could concentrate on the arts, heritage, sport and charity and not get involved in small amounts of funding, relative to the large amount of state funding that went directly to health and education.

That is the nub of the argument this afternoon—what is the problem with including health and education? There are two main problems. First, state spending on health and education is already massive, so the lottery contribution would be small in comparison. There might be a temptation to increase the lottery contribution more and more to try to increase its significance when compared with the large amounts that come directly from taxpayers’ money.

Secondly, health and education are dominated by monopoly state provision involving large sums of money. It has been common party policy between the Conservatives and Labour in the past 20 years to make health and education the two utmost priorities for increases in spending. Although Labour has spent much of the past few years trying to deny that, anybody who looks at the figures will see that in the 1980s and 1990s Conservative Governments regularly increased health and education spending by more than the rise in prices and often by more than the rise in wages, and wanted to make substantial real increases in that spending. When the new Government came to power they carried on with that policy and, in the past three years, we have had an even bigger leap in health and education spending, with which we have not disagreed. We are interested to see how that works out, because it has been a shared priority across the Floor
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of the House that health and education should be the dominant areas that attract extra money from the taxpayer.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the public perceive that lottery money is displacing money that should rightly be provided from the public purse for health and education, they will disapprove and that that will reverse the recovery that the lottery has seen in ticket sales and, therefore, its ability to help good causes generally?

Mr. Redwood: That is a possibility, and my hon. Friend makes his case strongly. My case is slightly different. Given that it is still the shared priority of the major parties that health and education should get the lion’s share of increased taxpayers’ resources, and given the large sums involved, it is difficult to see how a bigger additional contribution can be made by lottery funding. It would be difficult to identify the areas that would be genuinely additional and that everybody would agree the state should not provide. The state is the monopoly provider, the provider of last resort and the general provider of health and education services to most of our constituents and, as such, it has the duty to ensure that whatever is new or worthwhile in those areas is properly paid for out of taxation.

My concern is with the traditional areas for the lottery, which will be squeezed by these proposals. We can see that under clause 7 half of the amount will go to the new purposes—health, education and environment, of which the first two are likely to be the dominant ones—and the worry is that arts, heritage, sports and charities will be squeezed. Why were they identified as suitable areas for lottery funding—attracting cross-party agreement—in 1992-93? It was because the state was not dominant in those areas. The state is not the main provider of arts, heritage, charity or sport in our country. There are huge amounts of private money in sports such as soccer, mostly from television companies, huge amounts of voluntary donations to charities, and arts and heritage attract a great deal of private money from rich companies and rich individuals and the many of our constituents who visit them and pay fees for the privilege of doing so. The amounts provided by the state to those areas were not huge and the state did not dominate funding, so it was possible to identify smaller community projects or larger tasks that needed additional money, to which the lottery could make a real difference. We all have examples of the lottery’s success in achieving just that.

The worry is that if we allow Ministers to get away with providing money from the lottery to health and education without proper rules on additionality, there will be backsliding, so that matters that we agree should properly be paid for in the normal way by the taxpayer take money and detract from the amount available for the other good causes for which the lottery has become famous and which it should fund in the future.

I face a conundrum when asked to approve the amendments. My hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster says that they are the best that we can do and I am often swayed by him, but it would give me and many others for whom I speak greater comfort if the Minister could give us a better insight into the sort of prescriptions that the Secretary
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of State will produce if she is entrusted with these powers. It would be helpful if we had before us a clear definition of additionality that made sense and could provide a way to police the operation of these clauses.

The Minister may think that the Big Lottery Fund has the common touch, although people might consider the name to be a tad vulgar for something so well intentioned. It is certainly ambitious and presumptuous, but I hope that people realise that they need to keep on buying tickets if it is to stay big.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) said, many people will want reassurance that the lottery will not become a cheap trick for a Government who have run out of money. They have spent a very great deal on the core purposes of health and education without achieving all that they wanted. The proper purposes of the lottery were defined on a cross-party basis when it started, but those purposes may be put under pressure and begin to wither. We must not get into the sort of vicious circle that my hon. Friend described, with people’s lack of enthusiasm causing contributions to fall.

Moreover, I should be reluctant to get into a pincer movement, with health and education taking more and more, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster implied could happen. All too often, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence makes judgments about remedies that doctors and patients in my area think could be valuable, and then says that they will not be available on the NHS. If the lottery were to begin making up for NICE’s meanness, it could be very expensive. It might be popular, but it would not be in the spirit of additionality, and the Government have given no reassurance on the matter.

At the risk of damaging the wonderful spirit of consensus evident in the debate, I urge the Government to think more clearly about additionality, and to offer more reassurance in that regard. The Bill is another example of Henry VIII legislation, and a lot remains to happen after it has gone through the House.

Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central) (Lab): I am grateful to be able to say a few words in this debate, and to follow the interesting remarks made by the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood). I share some of his concerns about the general drift of matters to do with the national lottery. There is an acceptance in the House that the Government are moving in the right direction with the lottery, certainly compared with their original plans. However, many people outside the House are very worried about funding for the arts and heritage, which over the decades have tended to be underfunded by Governments of all parties.

The lottery was originally intended to bolster the funding for heritage and the arts, and very good work was done in the early days, specifically in connection with the acquisition of objects and works of art for museums and galleries. There was a time when the Department responsible for the arts—it used to be the Department of National Heritage but is now the Department for Culture, Media and Sport—earmarked money for our national galleries so that they could acquire objects and works of art. That has been frozen
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or even eliminated in some cases, so that now even the British Museum and the National Gallery have almost no money at all.

We are approaching the Olympics, when the eyes of the world will be on us. I hope that Ministers will take pride in the fact that this country has some of the greatest museums, galleries and arts organisations in the world, and that they will use the opportunity to talk up, praise and value our extraordinary cultural riches and heritage. However, that approach is slightly undermined by the fact that the Government have almost ceased to help our museums and galleries to make acquisitions. The two organisations that were preventing museums and galleries from being simply unable to acquire new objects and works of art were the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

I fear that a terrible drift has taken place in recent years, and that it is embodied in the Bill and in the attitude of the DCMS. Guidance has been given to the Heritage Lottery Fund that it should turn its attention away from the arts and heritage in general, and away from acquisitions in particular, and towards the Olympics, sport and socially desirable programmes. Nobody disputes that those things are valuable and desirable. Everybody wants the Olympics to be a success, but the idea that they can be a success only at the expense of our cultural life and of our major museums and galleries being able to make acquisitions is very regrettable. The Bill does not, in itself, further that trend, but it does nothing to balk a trend that is extremely undesirable. Anyone who has paid any attention to these matters will have heard the articulate pleas of Mr. Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, and Mr. Charles Saumarez Smith, the director of the National Gallery, that important acquisitions that they ought to be making on our behalf cannot be made.

4.15 pm

Mr. Redwood: The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful case and I have a lot of sympathy with what he saying about the arts and heritage. There is a problem with the Bill. We all accept that the Olympics are an important one-off event and that a case can be made for more money going into sport in the run-up to them, to give sport a better chance and so that we can all be proud of our athletes as well as our facilities. However, it is a one-off event and it will end. The problem with introducing health and education is that they could prove to be a permanent addition, and they may grow and grow because their appetites are so large. They could be far worse at squeezing what the hon. Gentleman values than sport, in its temporary phase of ascendancy, will be.

Mark Fisher: I absolutely agree. This whole area of concern puts the finger on something that has always bedevilled politicians and Governments in their support for the arts and for heritage. The public are asked the perfectly understandable rhetorical populist question of whether they would prefer to help people who are dying and have huge “help” problems, or to help our young get a good education, or to buy works of art for a gallery, works of archaeology or objects. Almost everybody, of course—no matter how
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passionate a supporter of the arts and our cultural heritage—would ask how one could possibly resist supporting people in severe ill health or who need better education. But it is not a proper question—it is a fake question, and one that should not be asked.

In any civilised society, we need both: of course we need good health care and education, but we need great art galleries to express what this generation cares about and to pass that on to our children and grandchildren. The danger of the Bill—and to the lottery, which has been, in our lifetime, the one bulwark against that populist question—is that undermining that bulwark by general drift will leave us all poorer. The lottery may, as a result of the Bill and the Government’s action, do very good work in health and social inclusion programmes, and in the Olympics and sport. However, our children and our grandchildren will ask what it was that this generation cared about in our cultural life and how they can see it when they go to our major galleries and museums. They will ask what we collected and what we wanted to do, and there will be a terrible, gaping hole.

Virtually no contemporary fine art is being collected in this country. One of the few bodies that supports it—the Contemporary Art Society—has minuscule programmes and a tiny handful of money every year. In 50 years’ time, we shall be in danger of their looking back at our generation and saying that we cared so little for our arts and heritage and cultural life that nothing remains that there is a gaping hole in our museums and galleries. [ Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Jonathan Shaw) want to intervene?

Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford) (Lab): No.

Mark Fisher: Interestingly, I thought that someone on the Treasury Bench wanted to intervene. I would willingly have given way if the hon. Gentleman had wanted to contribute to the debate.

Mr. Mark Field: I fear that an intervention from the Opposition Front Bench will be second best, but I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way to me instead. He is making a powerful contribution. We, too, have expressed the concern that the more we have to justify expenditure on the arts and heritage in relation to extraneous elements such as education, law and order and the like, the more dangerous the path. As he rightly points out, in times of difficult financial straits for the country—whether or not they actually come to pass—if we have to justify expenditure on the arts and heritage in relation to money and goods for health and education there will be something of a disaster. Inevitably, money will go to health and education, not to the all-important artistic heritage that he rightly promotes and praises.

Mark Fisher: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As he says, the Opposition Front Bench is second best and I would have preferred to take an intervention from the Treasury Bench, but his observations were interesting and helpful.

I am simply making a plea to my right hon. Friend the Minister. He is a civilised man who comes from an
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extremely civilised city, which, ironically, embodies the best of the trend and its dangers. Sheffield has some of the finest regional galleries and museums—Weston Park and the Graves have wonderful collections—which have benefited hugely from lottery money and are the better for it. There is a fine director, Mr. Nicholas Dodd. However, the danger is that there will be no acquisition money. A small amount is available through the renaissance fund—indeed, Sheffield is a hub for that—but the money has to be disbursed around the region.

The galleries and museums of Sheffield, the Minister’s own city, will be in fine physical condition, but we shall not be refreshing and renewing their collections. I hope that my right hon. Friend shares my concern that such a wonderful city could be left in that position. Will he make sure that he does not increase pressure on the Heritage Lottery Fund by encouraging it to move too far away from help for the arts or heritage, especially for acquisitions for our museums and galleries? We need that help, and if the Bill is to do the good work that it should it must not move away from it.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): The hon. Gentleman’s comments are music to the ears of many of us on the Opposition Benches. He is aware of Sir Nicholas Goodison’s report and its recommendations, although sadly few of them have been implemented by the Government. Does he share my concern that if the Government move towards an acquisition fund they should not raid existing funds or divert money from the Heritage Lottery Fund or the National Heritage Memorial Fund, but should find new sources of funding, if they can, to solve the acute acquisitions problem?

Mark Fisher: That would be the ideal solution; there should not be raids on other areas. I am going slightly wide of the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I hope that the Minister heard what the hon. Gentleman said about Sir Nicholas Goodison’s report. The whole world outside this place has been waiting for a positive response to at least some of its very practical recommendations. That is one way—other than the lottery—in which we can help those causes that does not involve general taxpayers’ money. I hope that the Treasury, through the Minister, will hear those points and will recognise that tax forgone works extremely well in the acceptance in lieu scheme, whereby about £30 million goes to our galleries and museums every year. A general approach, such as Sir Nicholas Goodison recommended, would be an ideal addition to money through the lottery, which we are considering today. I hope that I am still in order when making that point, linking—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman should not push his luck.

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